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Bernice Thurman Hunter
Richmond Hill (Ont.), Scholastic Canada, 1991. 161pp, paper, $4.50
ISBN 0-590-74051-2. CIP

Grades 4 to 9/Ages 9 to 14

Reviewed by B. Henley.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

The Firefighter is the kind of novel that "warms the heart." It is a nice change of pace from books that deal with today's pressures, as it is set in the 1950s.

Terry, the main character, is an el even-year-old boy who has recently lost both his parents and his little brother in a car accident. After living in a succession of foster homes, Terry moves in with his spinster aunts, both of whom are obviously mourning the death of their brother, and each of whom is dealing with this grief in different ways.

It seems that Terry, who is lost in his own mourning, is doing poorly at school and feeling miserable about his new "home." He has only one spark to brighten his days, and that is Joe Hancock and the fire station where he works.

Because he is so unhappy at home, Terry makes plans to run away and saves all his money to this end. One aunt, however, discovers his secret and demolishes his plans. Out of despera­tion and loneliness, Terry does run away, and his few days of "freedom" follow. As luck would have it, though, he is caught when he arrives on the scene of yet another fire and is injured in an explosion. Not only are his aunts dismayed by his behaviour, he is also suspected of arson, and the days that follow are even more hopeless.

The Firefighter takes place in down­town Toronto. Readers will be de­lighted to walk in Terry's footsteps as he boards streetcars, watches the Christmas displays in Simpson's windows, and takes in old John Wayne movies at the Imperial. There are even a few authen­tic pictures in the book of the old firehall and of actual fires that took place then. As well, the story has many elements young readers will enjoy. It contains adventure - in Terry's escape and his life on the streets, and in the descrip­tions of blazing buildings. Also, it will appeal to anyone who has lost a loved one and is dealing with a personal tragedy. Finally, the addition of Queenie, the German shepherd adopted by Terry in the end, rounds off the story nicely. In short, 's appeal is quite broad.

The reading level is suitably chal­lenging, although for some readers the vocabulary may be difficult. Hunter is generous in her descriptions and choice of language, as depicted in a dream Terry has: "A huge fire, a conflagration bigger than all the fires he'd ever seen rolled into one, engulfed Ossington Avenue. Every house from Bloor Street to College was swallowed in a torrent of orange flames, and he, Terry Dawson, with his intrepid dog Queenie, saved every living soul."

This book will appeal to a wide range of readers, in the same way the classics Old Yeller and Black Beauty still do. It will be a welcome addition to a library serving students from grades 4 to 9.

B. Henley, Brantford Collegiate Institute and Vocational School, Brantford, Ont.
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